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Tips for a successful 2017 harvest

Posted in: by Alex Robinson on 19 January 2017

The recent contractor meetings are crucial to ensuring higher performing crops with successful cutting and baling and ultimately a higher net margin for the grower.

The forums kicked off with presentations outlining 2016 harvest statistics and margins. We also discussed identification of poor performing crops and solutions for them, as well as suitable regeneration machinery.

Harvest 2016 review

It's no secret that harvest 2016 was a challenge. Cutting and baling was delayed and the window was increasingly shortened, because new shoots were beginning to come through, but the wet weather hindered proceedings. Our growers were fantastic, cooperating with the contractors to ensure the vast majority of miscanthus crops across the country were harvested in time.

However, harvest yield was 15% down on previous years and some of the bales received were not within specification. This is something we need to improve this year, to ensure growers get the best value from their miscanthus crops.

And to ensure that the cutting and baling goes to plan, the harvesting contractor is the most important link in delivering the standing crop from field to furnace at the right quality and ultimately, a sustainable margin for the grower.

Harvesting miscanthus 2017:

Crops can be cut from late January onwards (ground conditions permitting) and laid to ripen for six to eight weeks to maximise the baling window.

Swathed miscanthus should be in 40-50cm rods, cut as low as is practical - (10cm) minimum pith exposure and in an 'A' framed swath.

Swathed miscanthus cut very late in the season may require the pith opening up, but this swath will not remain waterproof if it rains!

Meeting bale specifications:

10% of 2016 miscanthus bales were over 16% moisture content. Which meant that the grower was deduced charges for these, as per the contract, and 2% were not fit for purpose. We want to ensure that this year all bales are within specification, which requires the following:

  • No ground litter to be baled
  • All bales within the target range of 0-15.99% moisture content
  • No metal twine to be used
  • No missing strings
  • Strings on the side of each bale
  • Hesston Bales to weigh 450kgs to 650kgs
  • Bale size optimum:
    • Length 2500mm to 2650mm
    • Height 1220mm to 1320mm
    • Width 1150mm to 1250mm
The first 10 bales need to be checked for moisture, then checked every hour afterwards. Also, to ensure the maximum density, all strings must be in the RIGHT place.

The biggest topic of discussion at the forums was the string specification for Brigg renewable energy plant, which requires that all bales to have NO MISSING STRINGS. Many bales had missing string last year, which became an issue once they reached Brigg power station, so we need to take steps to ensure this doesn't happen again.

To avoid this problem in the future, we've come up with a few tips to consider:

  • Use Ultra Grip String
  • Use the Miscanthus Needle Kit available for Hesston balers
  • Communicate with your contractor, they know the best ways to avoid missing strings, and this way any remedial action required can take place in the field
Storage:

Avoid storing bales outside where ever possible, bales should always be stored undercover!

Recognising poor performing crops:

Older crops can be thin and have large areas missing. Contractors are well versed in the solutions to this, which include reworking and replanting bare patches, replanting the whole crop or cultivating the total field. Nutrition deficiencies should be tested for via a basic soil test and this will help enhance crop performance. For more information on boosting miscanthus yields with remedial work click here. 

Our approved contractors are all miscanthus experts, and are at hand to help growers to improve their gross margin per hectare by offering their skills, machinery and advice and can assess poor crops, then treat accordingly.

In summary:

  • The contractor is well situated to assess poor crops
  • Increased margins per ha are possible by treating the cause of low yields (other than weather)
  • Contractors normally have the kit to solve the problem
  • Attention to bale moisture, plus bale density and all strings are now quality requirements
If you'd like to get in contact with one of our approved contractors in your area, a full list is available here

And if you would like to discuss any of the harvest specifications please get in touch with me: alexr@terravesta.com.

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Miscanthus has a great future in the UK as an energy crop. There is one company which understands and can work with growers, can process the crop to produce sustainable. high quality fuel and energy and can sell those products to end users. Terravesta is that company.

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